HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE QUEENS VILLAGE REPUBLICAN CLUB, INC. FROM 1875 TO 1940
In the early days, Queens (1), as the locality was then called, was in the township of Jamaica and all of the voting took place at the Town Hall in Jamaica. In those times, the section consisted, mainly, of large farms and from the sparse population it was extremely difficult to build up an impressive membership.
But what the Queens Village Republican Club lacked in numbers it compensated for in spirit. The “old timers” relate the part taken by the Club during the campaign in 1880 in which Garfield, Republican, opposed Hancock, Democrat, for the Presidency. Nicholas Hallock had presented the Club with a cannon, a relic of the Civil War (2). A uniformed brigade was formed consisting of some 90 men who paraded through all the nearby communities including Woodhaven, Jamaica, Garden City and Hempstead (3).
With white shirts, on which the candidate’s initials were embroidered in red, blue trousers and marksman’s hats and flowing white capes the brigade was the highlight of the local campaign and the envy of the opposition as it marched along with the cannon, mounted on wheels and fired, now and then, to stir up enthusiasm. So great was the popular interest around by the brigade that in 1884 it took a leading part in the campaign in which Blaine, Republican and Cleveland, Democrat, contended for the Presidency.
The Club, as a Republican group, had been, previously, organized in 1875. It held its meetings at Inglewood Hall over the Kelsey Store which was formerly located on what is now the southwest corner of Jamaica Avenue and Springfield Boulevard. (4) This spot was a central meeting place for all the local farmers. Here their produce would be weighed on the route to market. Later, meetings were held in the fire house of Queens Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 Volunteers. This fire house was also used as the first polling place, in Queens Village and later, after the world war, became the American Legion Post headquarters. The site of the fire house is included in the area converted into a park plaza on the south side of the railroad station. (5) Thereafter, the real estate office building of Wheeler Brothers on what is now the northwest corner of Jamaica Avenue and 217th Street and later, the former Post Office building opposite the old railroad station became the meeting places.
During this time, many persons of note and candidates visited the Club at campaign rallies among them being Job. E. Hedges, candidate for Governor in 1912, John Purroy Mitchell, nominee for Mayor in 1913, (6) William M. Calder in his race for the Senatorship and later, James W. Wadsworth, nominee for the same office in 1920.
During the period between April 11, 1924 and January 8, 1931, the Club had its headquarters in the Kissam Building at 97-01 Springfield Boulevard. (7) This was a period a great activity and expansion for the Club and its reputation as a strong, well-informed Republican body was widely recognized. Among the famous visitors at the Club during that time were Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Ogden L. Mills, Albert M. Ottinger, the candidates for Governor respectively in 1924, 1926, and 1928, Mr. L. E. Waterman, nominee for the Mayoralty in 1925 and Mr. Robert L. Bacon, who stood for election as a member of the House of Representatives at Washington in 1926 and was returned to that body for six successive terms and who, during his incumbency, frequently appeared at the Club and gained its utmost confidence and the wholehearted support of the membership by reason of his friendliness toward the Club.
On December 10, 1934, the Club was duly incorporated under the Membership Corporation Law of the State of New York with all the attendant ceremony.
The Club, later, moved to 96-48 Springfield Boulevard, known as the Dr. Ross Mansion until March 15, 1936 when the home of the once famous Queens Club at 215-22 Jamaica Avenue, became the Club quarters.
An account of events in the life of the Club, up to this time, would be incomplete without a roll-call of the Presidents of the club down to the present day. Among them were such men as:
Judge Isaac C. Kellogg, Nicholas Hallock, William L. Wood, Judge Alfred Bokee, Oscar Denton, Edward Raynor, Woodbridge Demarest, George Denton, J. Maynard Kissam, W. A. Kissam, Dr. Charles H. Miller, Charles E. Husson, Wilmot Y. Hallock, Henry Stein, Judge Robert A. Inch, Fred D. Wood, Edward P. Burwell, Lorenzo D. Brown, A. H. Witschieben, George Olsen, Maurice L. Egan, Philip E. Bantel, Arthur Brandoff, Henry Holst, Fred W. Preller.
On May 16, 1939, the Club moved into its first true home. With funds raised among friends and members, the two-story building at 218-85 Hempstead Avenue, now occupied by it, was purchased by the Club. It stands, a monument to all who have labored in the past to bring the Club to its present high estate, an exemplification of what can be accomplished by public-spirited men united in service and purpose and an inspiration, for the future, to those who would carry on for the Club in the true, progressive Republican tradition.
1. The name “Queens was adopted in 1856, but the older name “Brushville” lingered on into the 1870s and 80s. It is reported that the Club was originally named after the numbered Ward that the Club was located in within the Town of Jamaica. Because of confusion between the County of Queens and the community of Queens, the word “Village” was added in 1924 after a vote of the local citizens.
2. It is not currently known what became of this cannon.
3. It wasn’t until 1899 that the present day Nassau County was created, hence it is not strange that the Club would have strayed east into Garden City and Hempstead. Queens County then extended all the way east to Suffolk County.
4. This spot is now the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza park maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
5. It is believed that this is not a misprint. The parking lot on the south side of the railroad had long been claimed by the late local historian Thomas F. Schweitzer to actually be mapped park land. Why it is paved and used by a private entrepreneur instead of being a public greensward has long been a mystery.
6. Mitchell was elected and served as Mayor from 1914-1917.
7. The Kissam Building later became the district office of State Assemblyman John A. Esposito, who was elected to office from the Queens Village Republican Club in 1965, taking office in 1966. It currently houses the district offices of State Assembly Member Barabara Clark, a Democrat. This building has had a long career and once housed a public library.